CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Chief Justice Tim Armstead and the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia announced in a press release on March 16 that all state courts throughout the state are being advised to suspend all but emergency proceedings until April 10 due to public safety concerns surrounding the coronavirus (COVID19).
In the court order that was filed on Monday stated that all civil and criminal trials as well as jury orientations should be postponed. The only exception, the release stated, would be a trial where the right to a speedy trial may not allow for a postponement.
Hearings that are considered as emergency hearings such as abuse and neglect petitions, domestic violence protective order petitions, mental hygiene petitions, and criminal arraignments and preliminary hearings with time requirements can still be held, at the discretion of the presiding judge. Those hearings should be held using technology to avoid as much person-to-person contact as possible.
The Circuit Clerk’s offices as well as judicial offices throughout the state where public access has also been restricted are being advised to be available by phone and e-mail as well as have drop boxes for court filings. There is a box for filings at the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia Clerk’s Office and the office will remain open at this time.
According to the release, all cases that were originally scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on March 17, 18, 24, and 25 will be rescheduled for a later date. The Supreme Court order issued Monday goes hand-in-hand with the protocol issued March 12. Chief Justice Armstead explained that courts are keeping the safety of the public and officials as a top concern.
“We are attempting to address the need to proceed with the critical work of our court system while also addressing the need to protect public safety. Any proceedings that either can be continued or that legally and technically can be held via telephone or video should be addressed in that manner so we can keep as many people outside of group settings as possible.”
Chief Justice Armstead explained to judicial officers that steps will be taken that are believed to be necessary to address the issues at hand.
“With the Governor recommending that certain steps be taken, we want to make sure we are complying with those steps as well as those measures we believe are necessary to address specific and unique issues,” Chief Justice Armstead stated.
Chief Justice Armstead explained that the protocols are likely to change, depending on how the situation develops.
“The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has great confidence in the ability of our judges and court staff to handle these charges professionally,” Chief Justice Armstead explained. “This is an ever changing situation. It is likely we will issue additional or revised protocols.”
The March 12 protocol and notices that are posted in courthouses will remain in effect to give directions to parties, attorneys, witnesses, jurors and the public will be in place until further notice. To view all of the protocols that are in place, click here to head over to the West Virginia courts website.